|Who do Sox fans root for?|
Jose Quintana will take to the mound at Marlins' Park in Miami, where his "home" Colombia national team will begin to play in the World Baseball Classic, the international tourney that began earlier this week in Asian parts of the world and now comes to the western hemisphere.
YET THE CONFLICT will be for those White Sox fans who just can't get with the baseball program and want to let their nationalistic sentiments prevail.
Because the Colombia national squad plays its first game Friday against team United States of America! Which, by the way, includes amongst its ranks White Sox relief pitchers Nate Jones and Dave Robertson.
Who do you root for? Do you stick by your favorite local team? Or do you root for your home country?
Do White Sox fans want Quintana to go out and get trashed, preferably early, so he doesn't throw too many pitches? Or would they rather see him do well on the grounds that a solid performance in a prominent ballgame will reflect well on Quintana, and boost his trade value?
BECAUSE QUINTANA WAS one of the pitchers whom the White Sox were looking to trade last winter, hoping to get lots of young quality (and cheap) prospects in return that could help bolster the quality of the ball club quickly.
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But this is just one of the many baseball scenarios that will play out in the next couple of weeks, which is why I feel sorry for those individuals who want to denigrate the World Baseball Classic. It's real-live baseball back (and not just a spring training game like the one played Wednesday in which overhyped former football star Tim Tebow got applause for hitting into a double play that managed to drive in a run for the New York Mets) after the winter chill.
Personally, I'm following the play of Mexico's national team, which began Thursday night with a 10-9 loss against team Italy (following losses this week to the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks at their spring training camps). I find it intriguing that their first round of games is being played in a stadium near Guadalajara, which happens to be where my maternal grandfather came from.
|Pitching for Mexico, then White Sox|
And also is the home stadium of the Jalisco Charros -- a team that includes amongst its athletic and managerial alumni the late Minnie Minoso of the White Sox.
THE MEXICAN NATIONAL team also happens to include Miguel Gonzalez, who pitched last year for the White Sox following several seasons with the Baltimore Orioles and himself is Guadalajara-born (but a Southern California native). Which means he expects to have family sitting in the stands for the games against Italy, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.
For those of you who feel this commentary is getting too Sox-centric, relax. There are some Chicago Cubs ballplayers who qualify as being amongst the world's elite. Cubs infielder Javy Baez will be playing second base for the Puerto Rico national team, while White Sox pitcher Giovani Soto will be pitching for that Boricuan squad.
|Making the most of an Israeli 'first'|
Not that there hasn't been local angles to the play thus far. The big story of the World Baseball Classic has been the surprise play of the Israel national team, which was figured to be a token squad that would get its butt kicked out in the first round. Instead, they went undefeated -- including crushing the Taiwan team and beating Korea in a game played in a ballpark in Seoul.
One of the Israeli ballplayers in that game was Alex Katz, a White Sox minor leaguer who pitched an inning in relief. While another White Sox minor leaguer is Brad Goldberg, who is being added to the Israel national squad that resumes play Sunday in Tokyo (Saturday at 9 p.m., Chicago time). Yes, it's one of the tournament's quirks that they can add more ballplayers so as to reduce the chance of anyone suffering a severe injury that hurts the professional team they play for during the summer months.
SO FOR THOSE of you who are letting your nativist thoughts get the best of you and claiming the World Baseball Classic is a sham (because nothing beats the appeal of a late-season Tampa Bay Rays/Minnesota Twins matchup, right!), keep in mind that I'm also aware that the be-all and end-all of baseball will not be the championship game to be played March 22 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
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I'm just as intrigued as how all of this impacts the American and National league activity in upcoming summers. So as for that Quintana start Friday night against Team U.S.A., I'll be the first to admit I won't be disappointed if the Colombian kid manages to shut our national team down.
A good game could help boost his trade value, which could result in the White Sox getting some talent back in return that could make the Summer of '17 a little more pleasant while enduring the scene now at Guaranteed Rate Field.
While also putting the White Sox a step closer to fulfilling their end of achieving the ultimate fantasy of true Chicago baseball fans -- an all-Chicago World Series, one in which the White Sox show their superiority over a certain other ball club that wants to believe they're all that matter in the world of baseball.